Prioritization: The Key Driver to Delivering Program Success

What's the key to project management success?

With an unending stream of headline hype from presidential politics to North Korea to last week’s solar eclipse, constant repetition has me tuning out. It also has me questioning how to sort through all of this information, what is truly relevant, and what hype we should believe. We’re not even immune in the workplace—this same issue is happening in asset management.

We have been inundated with headlines about MiFID II, Bitcoin, blockchain, IBOR, etc. over the past year. If you pay attention to the news outlets, the information can vary widely. From day to day, there are different reports on how far-reaching MiFID II is going to be. When reading the deluge of publications about IBOR, it is unclear the specific benefits that it may provide to different firms. And don’t get me started on #fintech. I would bet that most asset managers have had vendors approach them touting the importance of their solutions to address hot-button topics, and they all approach it differently. The same is true of program management. Missed deadline here, fire to put out there, a week of unexpected work here—how do we determine what to address? When overseeing the execution of an ambitious program, we don’t have the luxury of tuning out.

Over the years and through trial by fire, I’ve come up with a method of project prioritization that works. Below are the steps that I take.

  • Separate projects with near-term deadlines from important projects while considering the firm’s overall strategy.
  • Consider the result or outcome, and what will benefit the firm.
  • Get input from business units to help you in prioritizing your projects.
  • Keep your list of priorities flexible. Some priorities will change day by day.

If prioritizing is difficult for you, talk with your team and leadership to identify what drivers are motivating a project. These goals could significantly change the way you approach your list. Below are a few of the common drivers I see on projects, and each will influence priority differently.

  • Competitive advantage
  • Cost savings/financial benefit
  • Operational efficiency/process improvement
  • Improving quality
  • Risk mitigation
  • Growth/ business opportunities

I have found prioritization to be the key to effective program management. Using the steps and questions above can help you determine what projects will deliver the most value to your firm and what order they need to be tackled. While everyone in the organization may have their own set of project priorities, one of the most important indicators of success is the ability to determine what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and keying in on the deliverables that need to be addressed first.